Tomémonos un tinto, seamos amigos

Reading some articles the other afternoon in El Tiempo, I noticed on the side box the top five shared articles. Number one was Panties y tinto, dos negocios que interesan a inversionistas foráneos. 

Panties and coffee, two businesses that interest foreign investors.

I remembered the story because I had read it earlier in the morning, and I knew that its headline definitely didn’t say anything about underwear then. At that time, the headline had been Extranjeros en Colombia ven opciones de negocios hasta en el tinto.

Foreigners in Colombia see business possibilities even in their coffee.

I’m pretty sure that even without panties the article was the most shared on the site. (Articles that make it seem like Colombia is being taken over by foreigners, or that foreigners are taking all the good jobs are extremely popular. Also, articles about Colombians who live abroad, especially when they aren’t exactly welcomed by locals. Basically, any article that features what the rest of the world thinks of the South American nation and their dirty laundry.) But I guess throwing the racy allusion to women’s underthings into the mix and the click bait that would translate into was too hard to resist. ¿Amarillistas? Yellow journalism? Yes, and it’s not even New Year’s Eve, which is when you’re supposed to don yellow underwear for good luck.

One thing I liked about the original headline was the play on words where they changed the traditional phrase ver algo hasta en la sopa to hasta en el tinto. To see something or someone even in your soup means you see it absolutely everywhere.

pocillo de tinto cup of colombian coffee

But what’s tinto? Do you know? In Colombia, tinto is black coffee, usually served in a small cup. Not to be confused, of course, with vino tinto–red wine. Ah, ¡tinto! How I’ve missed this word. Frequently diminutivized to tintico, naturally. Some sources report that they also say tinto for black coffee in Venezuela and Ecuador.

Nos tomamos un tinto un día de estos y nos desatrasamos, ¿te parece?

Let’s meet up for coffee soon and catch up. Sound good?

¿Le provoca un tinto a sumercé?

Would you like a cup of coffee?

Lo mejor del trabajo es la máquina del tinto, que es gratis, así que tomé y tomé tinto, alrededor de siete tazas; y eso que hoy era mi primer día y me sentía un poco tímido. Sin duda alguna la empresa se quebrará con mi forma de tomar tinto.

The best thing about the job is the coffee machine, which is free, so I drank and drank coffee, around seven cups. And, you know, today was my first day, and I felt a little shy. I’m absolutely certain that the company will go bankrupt with me drinking coffee like this.

When I first read those lines above a few years back, for some reason my mind momentarily blanked and read the lines as if they said tinta–ink. The best thing about the job is the ink machine (that’s nice), so I drank and drank ink (um, what?), around seven cups of ink (¡ay, Dios mío!). How strange this person was! And forget about the company going bankrupt–what about the havoc he was wreaking on his body? What did he think he was, a notebook? An inkwell? And then . . . oh, ¡tinto! Well, of course. The tinto machine is infaltable in Colombian workplaces. Even better is the señora de los tintos who comes by with the bandeja or the carrito.

la felicidad sabe a tinto comic

If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you might wrinkle your nose at tinto. Colombia’s premium coffee beans have traditionally been exported, and the Colombian coffee you drink outside of Colombia has little resemblance to what you’ll experience in the country. For better or for worse, I’m not a coffee buff (or snob, though I don’t want to suggest that there’s anything wrong in knowing how to appreciate good coffee), so the allegedly “flavorless” coffee that is drunk in Colombia suits me just fine. But more than the perceived quality of the drink, what’s so magical about drinking tinto is the atmosphere it creates and represents. Colombians are wonderfully warm, hospitable, and good at making spaces cozy. By pouring you a cup of tinto, they masterfully put you at ease and make you feel welcome. Whether it’s a get-together of family members, colleagues, friends, or lovers, a cup of tinto is a must for setting the mood. How I wish I had a steaming pocillo de tinto in my hands right now as I sit here writing. Starbucks is coming to Colombia soon, and I don’t know how I feel about that for several reasons. Hopefully, though, Colombia’s coffee traditions and culture will be preserved. 

This post’s title, Tomémonos un tinto, seamos amigos comes from a successful advertising campaign for Águila Roja. Let’s have a tinto; let’s be friends. Starting over a cup of coffee always bodes well for new friendships, and friends and coffee are two things you’ll find no shortage of when you go to Colombia.

14 responses to “Tomémonos un tinto, seamos amigos

  1. I didn’t know what “sumercé” meant until I Googled it (I thought it was a verb;-)


    • Also, “Le provoca…” = “Le/te gusta…”, right?


      • Yes! These words are VERY Colombian! (Which I probably should have indicated) Sumercé = su merced, and it’s very common to hear this in Bogotá and its surrounding areas. And le/te provoca = ¿quieres? ¿Te apetece? ¿Tienes ganas de? I never really thought about the literal meaning: Does X provoke you? I guess the best meaning for it would be tempt, invite. Just as Eve was provoked by the apple in the garden, sometimes there is just no possible way to resist a tinto :)

        Thanks for the comments!


  2. In my recent trip to Bogotá, I was waiting outside an office and la señora de los tintos came with un carrito to offer the drink and a small “mantecada” (a cube of a little over an inch per side). I had none but my dad had the mantecada. I am not a coffee drinker, but I opt for a “perico” if going into a café. As you once said, you are always a step ahead of me (I’d say more than a step), so you might have already said something about perico? Which is also a parakeet, scrambled eggs with onion and tomato, and later became another name for cocaine (perica).


    • I love mantecada! I could never find it in Medellín, though… a Bogotá thing? Yes, I’m aware of perico’s many facets. Cocaine can be perico or perica? The dictionary says that huevos pericos is an Andes/Caribe thing– fascinating. Other meanings for perico (again, from the dictionary) include giant asparagus, wig/toupé, chamberpot, and tart/slut. As for coffee in Colombia, it says “white coffee.” Oh yeah, remembered that I learned that chamberpot/bedpan in Colombia is pato :)


      • Yes, I always found the “pato” word funny. In my mind, bedpan is a “bacinilla,” Pato is a more complicated device that hospitals have, or used to have, for people that have difficulty getting up. They came in two shapes, one for women and one for men. I must have seen them at some point, but never really held one. The thought of using a pato was always kind of scary, but I considered many times trying it to see if it really works. But then, the consequences of not using it correctly deterred me from really doing it.

        I figure that saying pato to refer to a bacinilla is just familiar talk, not really “correct” but acceptable and understandable, and even preferable if you want to add a bit of informality to your story. I could be wrong, though, as I never studied the topic :)


  3. and panties (or pantys) are tights in Chile! I had to laugh when I first saw a newspaper pull-out that said, “como usar pantys.” Which is strange enough, but stranger still when you need undies. As always, love the blog!


    • Ha! Como usar pantys… hehe. That spelling is really grating, isn’t it? Thanks for the kind words- love yours, too, and have been reading for, oh, only ’bout four years now!


  4. Pingback: And another blog birthday! | Vocabat

  5. Love coming across old posts I haven’t read yet. Thanks for the word “desatrasar”, which I wasn’t familiar with. Hey, didn’t you say you had a list of “des-” words??


    • Thanks, Linda! And they love being read by you. My least-read post ever was this one, so feel free to give him some love as well (though maybe there’s a reason he’s the least-read).

      Yeah, isn’t that a cool word? It feels like a double negative, like to un-go backwards. And, yes! About the des-words- coming right up ;)

      I always appreciate post ideas! What do the people want to read?? I should do a poll.


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